A 68-year search for the crew of a World War II bomber crew lost in the Pacific is ending, after years of searching a remote island south of the Solomon Islands and west of Fiji.
Search teams from JPAC — the Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command based in Hawaii — made lengthy excavations on the island of Vanautu. After three visits to the island, remains of the seven-man crew were returned to the United States last fall.
One by one, memorial services are being held for the families of the B-25 bomber, which crashed into a mountainside during a storm.
Last week, Terry Sutton — the niece of Cpl. Wayne Erickson — saw the Marine Corps commemorate his service during a solemn ceremony at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Cpl. Erickson had been a tailgunner on the aircraft.
"Knowing what really happened gives some closure to this," Sutton said. For decades, her family had believed the B-25 crashed at sea.
Craig and Kim Anderson, whose uncle had been the bombardier-navigator on the flight, had a keen interest in solving the crash. They even mounted their own expedition to find 2nd Lt. Walt Vincent at one suspected crash site after discovering that B-25 wreckage had been found on Vanuatu.
"It's like piecing puzzles together," said Kim Anderson, who has come to know the families of many of the other crewmen in her quest to discover the fate of her "Uncle Dub."
More than 82,000 veterans from Korea through Vietnam are still missing. One by one, JPAC solves the cases, fulfilling its motto — "Until they are home."